Robot Orders Continue to Gain in 2010

North American based robotics producers saw new orders jump 16% in units and 30% in bucks within the first quarter of 2010 when in comparison with the exact same quarter in 2009, mentioned the Robotic Industries Association, the industry's trade group.

A total of 3,069 robots valued at $208.1 million had been ordered by North American manufacturing businesses within the first quarter of 2010. Additionally to exceeding the first quarter 2009 totals, the quarter was also 35% better in units and 45% ahead in bucks over the last quarter of 2009.

"While we are encouraged through the strong gains, we're keenly conscious that company in 2009 was extremely weak," said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. "The good news is that company is picking up, but we nevertheless have a long way to go to emerge in the impact from the financial crisis on investments in new factory automation gear," he explained.

Nearly each and every main user industry increased its purchases in the opening quarter of 2010. Especially strong gains were seen in robot sales towards the semiconductor/electronics/photonics sectors as well as food & consumer goods.

Automotive OEMs and component suppliers, traditionally the largest purchasers of robots in North America, also increased their orders in the first quarter of 2010. "The turnarounds we are seeing in the Detroit 3 are helping create more company for the robotics industry," mentioned Tammy Mulcahy of ABB, Chair of RIA's Statistics Committee. "However, it's likely to be some time before we reach the volumes we saw in the 2005-2007 period."

Material handling remains the largest application area for new robot orders, accounting for some 60% from the units sold in North America within the January through March period. According to Burnstein, this is a key reason why RIA decided to collocate its main trade show, Automate 2011 with ProMat, the leading event for the materials handling and logistics industry. The two events will be side by side at McCormick Place in Chicago, March 21-24, 2011.

RIA estimates that some 196,000 robots are now at work in U.S. factories, placing the United States second to Japan in overall robot use. More than one million robots are now being used worldwide.

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